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tv   MSNBC Special Coverage  MSNBC  October 11, 2012 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT

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no, these people are out there pushing birtherism or this jobs theory because they want to throw some dirt on the guy. they want to hurt him and skim some votes from him. not good for our politics, not good for our country. people have is so good in this country, shouldn't be doing it. it's wrong. both people with brains and consciences know it. that's "hardball." msnbc's coverage of the vice presidential kdebate continues with my colleague, rachel maddow, coming up right now. it was the most watched vice presidential debate in history. it was one of the most watched political debates ever. >> hey, can i call you joe? >> tonight in danville, kentucky, it's the rematch. sort of. vice presidential joe biden is back in blue. but in red tonight, it's the young congressman who wants to be known for his budget. >> i'm kind of a numbers guy. >> the poll numbers for romney and ryan soaring after the first
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presidential debate. democrats openly counting on joe biden tonight to stop that republican momentum. >> osama bin laden is dead and general motors is arrive. >> the 2012 vice presidential debate starts right now. happy debate night, everybody. the best television series of 2011 was the republican primary debates. there were 1 million of them. they played to huge audiences week after week and never disappointed. now it is october 2012 and the most compelling thing on television anywhere in the country is once again the debates. only now there are only two candidates at a time and the stakes are way higher.
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i'm rachel maddow. here on our msnbc headquarters in new york. i'm joined by ed schultz, reverend al sharpton, chris hayes, steve schmidt. lawrence o'donnell is our man in the spin room tonight. the one and only chris matthews is at centre college in danville, kentucky, the site of tonight's debate. chris, is this unusually high stakes for a vice presidential debate? >> well, it's great being with you, again, rachel, and everyone else tonight at msnbc. look, it's great. it's great in its importance because of what happened last week. the frustration from the democratic base, i expressed it a acceleratisimilar version of the frustration of the failure of the president to bring out all this issues that his paid advertising, speeches have made all year but for some reason he didn't bring up. the most powerful issues. i'm going to one through four or five. by one word. you know the one word. vouchers. the way paul ryan wants to deal with health care which won't work for medicare. personhood. the way he wants to basically in effect criminalize, turn it into
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murder abortion decisions. the emergency room. where this presidential candidate of the republican party wants to send people rather than give them obama care. bankruptcy, where he wanted to see the auto industry. these are, 47% the way he disdained half the american people for being dependent and in a sense moochers. these are huge issues in this campaign, all raised before last week's debate, not raised by the president in last week's debate. i think in addition to winning tonight he has to win, biden has to bring out those issues and score with them. i think that's a big challenge for joe biden. let's see if he can do it. >> in addition to all of those things you listed, you know, chris, last week it was supposed to be a domestic policy debate. that is what they focused on. they left out immigration, left out mitt romney's jobs record. they left out mitt romney's record at bain. they left out the whole issue of mr. romney's tax returns. do you feel like the list of things that the democrats would like to be talking about here is a different list when it's paul ryan on the stage than when it is mitt romney on the stage?
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>> i would go to those ideological things. not so much the problematic problems governor romney faces personally but the ideological charts, do we really want to make a woman a murderer if she chooses to end a pregnancy, do we really want to get into that territory morally as a government? do we want to do that in civil society? do we want to be taking a wway e medicare promise to people in any generation when you say to a person when they reach their 80s, go out, get on a bus and go find yourself an insurance company that's going to insure your health at this point. do we really want to do those kinds of things? and was it right to deal ideologically with the auto industry when we had to interrupt the normal processes of the market and do something extraordinary? romney said, no, let it happen. let them eat cake. obama said, no, i'm going to take this risk. he was right. the ideological issues are the very issues where i think what you can do tonight, it's a political term in philadelphia, you middle the guy. you take this guy, paul ryan, and middle him. force him to choose between his hard right ideology and positions he's taken over the
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years, stick to those positions or slink over to the romney positions that loosey-goosey thing in the position in the middle where he flips around and slips around so much he can't tell where he stands. will ryan be ryan tonight or a second best romney? force him to middle that decision. make him choose every minute, joe biden, between being his ideological self and being just another pal. that's what i'd do tonight to him. i'd force him. >> that question of distance between romney and ryan and whether there is any i think is going to be the most interesting thing to watch for on the republican side tonight, chris. i agree with you there. lawrence o'donnell is in the spin room at the debate in danville, kentucky. lawrence, what are you looking to tonight in terms of differences of the debate last week? >> well, the rules are somewhat different, rachel. they're attempting to get to more topics tonight. last week, the design was six top topics. jim lehrer only had time for five because basically the candidates went longer in every section. the idea, tonight, is in this
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90-minute debate, there will be nine topics, ten minutes each for the nine topics. but each candidate will begin each topic with a two-minute statement. so let's assume for a moment that each one of them will go over a little bit. the first five minutes of each topic is just each candidate's opening statement. then they're supposed to engage in a discussion. that will leave probably only about five minutes or less for that, so some of these are going to feel like some of the quicker segments we end up doing on our shows on msnbc. martha raddatz is going to try to get to all nine. i don't think there's any chance with the two speakers she'll do that. she'll be lucky if she gets to seven of the topics. i hope the audience keeps a very important thing in mind about this debate. what you will watch tonight has nothing to do with the executive function of the presidency or vice presidency. governing is not done on stages with microphones, with
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television cameras aimed at the people doing the governing. governing is done in closed rooms, in the cabinet room, in other rooms where no reward is made for the whitiest person or the person with the zinger or the clever line and the reward of good governing goes to the person in that room who is most thoughtful and most careful and most deliberative in including everything necessary to make a governing decision, including the advice of others in the room. none of that, none of the real skills and the real test of governing will be on display here. what will be on display here tonight is quick thinking, thinking on your feet, prepared remarks, memorization, things like that, that as i say, have absolutely nothing to do with what governing actually is. >> even though it's still fun to watch. >> it's fun to watch. we are allowed to tell -- well, the great thing about it, what we love about it is we're all allowed to televise it. we are not allowed to televise
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real governing. this is what we get to show. there are things you will derive from it. you'll absolutely get in many cases a much better understanding of a candidate's position. that's very, very helpful and predictive as to how they will make those decisions when they're making governing decisions. rachel, i was just talk to one of the members of the debate commission about the rules and the reasons why they change the rules into this free-form discussion. many of the members of the debate commission have watched senate floor debates where there is no moderator, where really good debates go back and forth on c-span all the time. without the need for moderator. the other very important thing is that it's impossible to include in this debate because we're just not getting to that level of reality. it is utterly preposterous that the candidates stand up there alone. there will not be one moment in their lives in government where they will ever, ever make a decision alone without any advice and they should absolutely be able to turn to two or three people the way the greatest lawyers in the world
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have three or four other lawyers at the counsel table with them helping them figure out what to do next. >> lawrence o'donnell, we'll be checking back in with you when the spin room has filled in. thank you, lawrence. vice president joe biden and paul ryan are obviously very different men who favor a very different policies. but they are both the same kind of guy in the sense that they are both creatures of washington. both men have spent essentially their entire adult lives in politics with only minor diversions into anything else. as political pros both men have to be conscious tonight of the fact gallup says if you look at vice presidential debates as standalone things not one of them has ever had a statistically significant effect on the overall poll numbers in a presidential race. but there's a first time for everything. and after the turnaround in at least the national numbers following the first presidential debate last week, the stakes tonight feel as high as they have ever felt for a vice presidential standoff. the republicans are hoping for a continuation of what started last week with mr. romney's
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successful challenge to president obama. democrats on the other hand are moping for a replay of 2004. you never hear democrats invoke kick h ta dick cheney positively. hope to stop the momentum from last week's debate the way dick cheney did in his debate in '04 after the democrats just clobbered his running mate president george w. bush in the first debate that year. >> you miss 33 out of 36 meetings of the judiciary committee. almost 70% of the meetings of the intelligence committee. you missed a lot of key votes on tax policy, on energy, on medicare reform. your hometown newspaper has taken to calling you senator gone. you've got one of the worst attendance records in the united states senate. now, in my capacity as vice president, i am the presiding officer. i'm up in the senate most tuesdays when they're in session. the first time i ever met you is when you walked on the stage tonight. >> not true, actually.
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dick cheney had met john edwards before, but he played it very well to good effect there. dick cheney essentially doing to john edwards in 2004 there what democrats are hoping joe biden will do to paul ryan tonight. i'm going to go first here in this room to the republican among us, somebody who's worked with dick cheney and george w. bush administration and was a senior strategist for mccain/palin. steve schmidt, when you look back at palin versus edwards there, do you see a model that democrats should be hoping for tonight? >> well, that debate was a huge moment in the 2004 campaign. with all respect to the gallup organization, it absolutely had an impact in that race because democrats have momentum coming out of president bush's disastrous first debate performance and dick cheney stopped it cold. he got equilibrium back into the base. he stopped the panic that was going on in the party and set up the president to come back in the second debate. and also john edwards made a big mistake in that debate that we
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were able to capitalize on. he made an issue out of mary cheney's sexuality and people were revolt by it across the country. >> he brought it up in a positive way but sounded like he wases being craven? >> i think there was no positive way to bring it up. he's a craven person who brought it up in a craven why. but the point is that it was a decisive victory and it brought stability back to the race. and democrats clearly, after a disastrous week politically, are looking for joe biden to do exactly that. >> al sharpton? >> i think -- i agree with steve on this, and might be the only time tonight. but i was involved in the 2004 race. i ran in the primary, was out there heavy for john kerry. and i knew after the debate with kerry and president bush in miami, we were all saying who we were going to put on the transition team. after the cheney debate, we were all, like, walking around bumping into walls. but i think that vice president
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biden has a couple of advantages tonight that we didn't have there, but that cheney may have used, and that is, i would keep ryan very close to his voting record and very close to the ryan budget. >> yes. >> unlike romney, last week when he debated the president, there is going to be a very difficult task if ryan tries to recreate himself, because there are documented votes he took and the ryan budget clearly makes vouchers out of medicare and the votes he did on terms of women's right to choose. he can't get away from a budget named after him that he authored. he can't get away from his own votes. so unlike mr. romney, who recreated himself in front of 70 million people to the shock of the nation and probably the president, it's going to be very difficult for ryan to do that. at the same time, ryan comes off looking so boyish. he's got to convince the
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american people he can handle being one heartbeat away from the presidency, and joe biden can almost act like not only have you voted in these ways that are very radical, but you're a kid, and we're going to trust the country with you? >> i feel like i have to rush to the defense of people who look boyish. >> but you're not running for vice president. >> thank god. >> but if you were, that would be part of the case you had to make that you were ready. this is not the most important issue tonight, but it has been bugging me as give been doing all this prep is when before mitt romney picked paul ryan he was making the case on the campaign trail that nobody should be allowed to run for president of the united states. amend the u.s. constitution so you couldn't run unless you had significant private sector experience, except for paul ryan who he picked to be his vice presidential nominee. do you think that distance between ryan and romney, ed, is the most important thing? most important opening tonight for joe biden? >> well, in your opening you talked about how they're very much the same. washingtonites. but the way they got there is a
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lot different. ryan's path was one of privilege. joe biden's was one of true middle class. i think tonight's debate is as much about how liberals are going to feel when it's over with, as paralleled to how they felt last week, so let down. i was in ohio. that's all they could talk about. i was in florida. that's all they could talk about. this tonight is about a motion. if democrats want to take away from tonight's debate that they feel a lot better about their case to the american people. and that was the shortcoming of the president last week. there were lies that were flying across the table last week, across the deck that were just coming so fast and furious, i think president obama didn't know which one to go after first. joe biden's in his wheelhouse tonight. he's probably one of the most politically known characters in american politics right now. everybody knows him. there's not going to be any real big surprises tonight. it's the same old joe. he's from the middle class. he legislated that way. he put 100,000 cops on the
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street with the clinton crime bill. this crowd wants to take cops away. i mean, there are so many differences between these two candidates tonight. these are two ideological titans going at it. it is going to be fun to watch, and i think the president's right. joe be joe, everything's going to be just fine. and i think the fact that they're sitting down is good. i've seen biden in person many times on the stump standing up. he gets a little carried away. sitting down tonight might be to his advantage. >> the thing i keep thinking about is what is going through paul ryan's head? when you think about it as a politician or public figure, who your peer group is you're trying to impress, paul ryan, right wing think tanks, conservative movement, ideological elements. is he going to go up on the stage tonight and renounce it all? that is the strategic chose made by the romney campaign. you're going to go up there and everything you've done since the first day you were a junior staffer on the hill to now, we want you to throw it out the window and do it in front of
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everyone. is he going to take his life's work and rip it up on national television? >> are they going to hold ryan to what he has done in politics? this is going to be such a good night. all right. as everyone concedes that president obama could really use a boost from vice president biden tonight, a senior obama campaign official is going to join us live next. this is msnbc's live coverage of the vice presidential key bait. we're very excited. we'll be right back ent. >> who am i? why am i here? >> would you like to start the discussion period? >> well, i'm out of ammunition on this. >> stockdale, it's your turn. >> you know, i didn't have my hearing aid turned on. tell me again. humans -- even when we cross our t's and dot our i's, we still run into problems. namely, other humans.
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i, too, want to avoid any personal attacks. i promise not to bring up your singing. so i -- >> i promise not to sing. >> an editorial in "the los angeles times" said, in addition to his uncontrolled verbosity, biden is a gaffe machine. can you reassure voters in this country that you would have the discipline you would need on the world stage, senator? >> yes. >> thank you, senator biden. >> joining us now is the deputy campaign manager for the obama/biden campaign, stephanie cutter. stephanie cutter, thank you very much for being with us tonight. i appreciate your time. >> good talking to you. >> so we have been talking on this stage and everybody in the country has been talking about the impact of the last debate. common wisdom is that the first presidential debate was essentially a game changer.
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and that the democrats, your side, really needs a change in the momentum tonight. do you agree with that common wisdom, and do you think there's a sizable shift in the way the race is being viewed? >> no, i don't agree with it. i think that there's no evidence that bears that out. you know, this is a close race. it's going to continue to be close. we're comfortable with where we are in the battleground states. we haven't seen any significant shift. now, that all being said, the president wasn't happy with his performance last week and he's made that clear. we're very much looking forward to tonight for joe biden and paul ryan to take the stage and we're looking forward to next week when the president and mitt romney will see each other again. >> is paul ryan's record the main event for you guys here tonight? or are you running and paul ryan as part of the romney/ryan ticket? how much should we expect to hear tonight about the way paul ryan comported himself in the house of representatives? >> well, you know, rachel, mitt romney and paul ryan campaigned all throughout the state of wisconsin during the republican
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primaries, where mitt romney completely wrapped his arms around paul ryan's policies. paul ryan's budget. i think that is going to be a piece of the discussion tonight and i think that is, you know, part of what the american people need to decide on, whether or not they want a budget that protects tax cuts for those at the top but is cutting education, and veterans and clean energy, innovation, infrastructure, turning medicare into a voucher program. those are the types of choices that the meamerican people have before them and that will be part of the discussion tonight. >> you said earlier today, stephanie, that paul ryan and mitt romney are politicizing the attack in benghazi that killed our ambassador there. the republican national committee responded to those remarks from you by calling them a profanity that i will not say, but that starts with the word "bull." i wonder if you care to respond to the rnc, to the rnc responding to you and if you stand by those comments and what you meant by them. >> well, a couple of things.
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first, i appreciate the outrage from the rnc and the republican party. you know, the day the attack occurred, before the ambassador's family was even notified, mitt romney was the one politicizing this terrible tragedy. and since that day, they politicized it every day since. just yesterday, mitt romney and paul ryan on the campaign trail were saying that the administration was covering up the facts. now, that's politicizing it. there's an investigation going on. and that investigation is getting to the bottom of how that attack occurred, why it occurred and how we prevent it from happening again. that investigation is being taken very seriously. every time a piece of information becomes known, the administration makes sure that congress and the american people know it. now, what i was talking about earlier today, and a question about why it's become such a political circus, and why has it been handled this way, i explained that the investigation is ongoing. the administration's taking it seriously. but mitt romney and paul ryan continue to politicize it. and, you know, that's an important thing for the american
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people to know. mitt romney has shot from the hip for foreign policy since day. >> in terms of foreign policy, national policy, we have a moderator tonight who's a senior foreign affairs correspondent for abc news. martha raddatz is a well traveled foreign correspondent. she's reported from a lot of war zones, she's done actually excellent war reporting. the common wisdom, again, about the relationship between president obama and vice president biden is there may be some daylight between the two of them on the issue of counterinsurgency, the u.s. strategy in iraq and afghanistan. it's been reported that the vice president may be more skeptical of that as a military strategy than president obama is. is there daylight between them? and if there is, is that an asset or a liability for your campaign heading into this vice presidential debate tonight? >> well, no, there is no daylight between what the administration's policy is and the policy we're pursuing. that being said, the president doesn't surround himself with yes people, yes men and women. he wants everybody's piece of
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advice and wants it argued out and talked out then we make a decision. now, i think that the vice president comes into this debate tonight with a tremendous amount of knowledge on foreign policy, whereas paul ryan, who will be sitting next to him, has done nothing but criticize this administration on foreign policy but not put out any ideas of his own. what exactly would he do differently on iraq, afghanistan, syria, iran, egypt, lib wra? all of these critical issues going on in the world. paul ryan has yet to put out one single idea or policy that he would do differently than this administration. you know, just a couple of days ago, he was saying what's happening in the middle east is as bad as what happened in tehran. i want to remind you in the secret 47% hidden tape that is now so well known, mitt romney also said to that, you know, group of wealthy donors, he also said that if he sees an opportunity, a foreign policy crisis, he's going to take advantage of it just like the hostage crisis in ronald reagan. i think that's what we are seeing now. they see an opportunity and
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they're trying to take advantage of it. where we should be having a legitimate, serious discussion about the direction of foreign policy in this country with serious ideas on the table yet there are no serious ideas on the table put up by mitt romney or paul ryan. >> stephanie cutter, deputy campaign manager from the obama campaign. busy night for you. thanks for spending some of it with us. we appreciate your time. >> thank you, rachel. >> we're counting down to the start of the vice presidential debate tonight. we have one distinct advantage here at msnbc. there's somebody among us right here at msnbc who has personally spent hours debating policy one-on-one with congressman paul ryan for real. that person is ezra klein, msnbc analyst. you should stay tuned to hear what ezra has learned from that very unique experience with one of the combatants in tonight's debate. stay with us. this is msnbc's live coverage of the vice presidential debate. [ male announcer ] how do you measure happiness?
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senator, i served with jack
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kennedy. i knew jack kennedy. jack kennedy was a friend of mine. senator, you're no jack kennedy. >> part of why the stakes feel so high tonight is that incumbent presidents almost always lose to the candidate challenging them in their first debate. the exception to that is bill clinton beating dole in their first debate in '96. other than that every time the first debate has been a killer for the incokucumbent president. president carter lost to ronald reagan, president reagan lost his first debate to robert mondale. president bush lost his first debate to bill clinton and ross perot. next president bush lost his first debate to john kerry. so when president obama lost his first debate last week to his challenger, mitt romney, that outcome was totally in keeping with the sad, sad incumbent president tradition of getting creamed in their first debate. but what hat means for tonight is that the democrats are looking for a solid performance to try to stop the republican
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momentum, to try to quash the poll imbalance that romney and ryan have been enjoying since the debate last week even if stephanie cutter tried to tell us a minute ago there was so much bounce. to that end, chuck todd joins us from the debate site with new polling information out today. chuck, what do we know today, chuck? >> i think we know, look, there has been some movement in romney's direction. now, some of it is, i would say, if you look at everything we've learned over the last few days, in our polling, in ohio, florida, and virginia, in the cbs/"new york times" polling, it feels like everything has moved to what i would call preconvention, right, before there was a democratic bounce, and before there was any sort of romney bounce, where this is a close race, but when you look in the battleground states there seems to be still a small advantage for the president. look at ohio. i think the most important number of the polls we had today was this early voting result that we found where one in five ohioans have already voted and the president's winning 2-1
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among those folks that have already voted. that's a big organizational advantage. he's banking some vote. that's a big deal, and that's an important result to look at. i also think there's some other trend here that i want to keep an eye on which is it seems romney got a bigger bounce in the national polls than we're seeing in some of these states and could it be that there was more room for him to grow in the non-battleground states than there was in the battleground states where there's been a defined campaign going on over the last six months and i think that's something i want to keep tracking over the next week or so. by the way, one other thing about this debate tonight, i do get the sense, you hear it in the obama team, some of it is out of -- desperation is too strong of a word b, but they dot want to lose a second debate in a row tonight. they have a plan this week. we learned president obama didn't have a plan for the first debate. mitt romney had a plan for the first debate. i get the sense the ryan folks while they have a plan, they don't want to lose this debate,
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it's not clear what their plan is to win the debate. it almost feels as if they are playing not to lose the debate, which we know that didn't work out so well for president obama. >> chuck, when you were talking about the non-swing state growth in the polls, for mr. romney, is he having enough growth in a non-swing state poll to potentially tip it from a leans democrat state to a lean republican state? is he expanding the battleground map at all with this growth that he's experiencing? >> well, that's not clear. there's some movement in michigan, not a lot. you know, i've seen some polling data, believe it or not, maine is one of the states with the electoral votes that split. there's some movement for him. instead of losing by double digits in a place like new jersey it's down to single digits instead of double digits in the second congressional district of maine, it's single digits. that's where you've seen shifts. that doesn't mean there's been movement among independents in virginia, in the battlegrounds, movement in wisconsin. wisconsin's gone from high
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single digits to low single digits for the president. there's real movement in the battlegroundses. we're seeing more movement in the non-battleground states and we have evidence, we did some analysis here, you know, romney has improved a full eight points already in the so-called red states in comparison to where mccain was in the red states four years ago. our pollsters did some analysis and yet there's been no real shift than the blue states in obama's advantage, plus or minus, or in the battleground states. >> chuck, thank you. that's fascinating. >> i got a little wonky there. i apologize. >> it's fascinating. we're all sort of nodding along like this figuring that out. what chuck is talking about here is a solidifying of not just a partisan position but also the position we were in before either of these candidates got their big bounce. obviously you want to be the guy with the second bounce, not the first one as we get closer to voting date. does that ring true to you in terms of what you were hearing? >> it does. fundamentally this just doesn't set up very well for mitt
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romney. his entire economic life, his entire economic plan, goes right against what ohio needs right now. middle class families who need a break. who at a time needed the automobile industry saved and he was against it. i don't know how he gets around that. there are just some real fundamentals that are going to be hard for him to overcome in ohio, and i think the president could have had a worse debate than he had last week and i don't think mitt romney would have overtaken him in the polls. look, there's a tremendous amount of passion amongst the base in the state of ohio. they felt the economy and they're feeling it coming back. and they're seeing it coming back. you can look at the amount of money being thrown at sherrod brown. he's still leading in the polls, and it's an insurmountable amount of money that we've never seen so much this year in any other race. so the fundamentals are against romney in ohio but also the president has done the ground game there. they've done the get out the vote. they've done the register to vote. they've done all the fundamental things that you've got to do if
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you're going to bring home the bacon in a state that is so vitally important and i don't think the romney people early on realized how important ohio really was. >> it was true before the convention, it was true after the convention, it's true after the debate, there are more paths to electoral college victory for the president than there are for mitt romney. that's just the way the map is. you and i were talking about this in the elevator. even if you put florida into mitt romney's camp, ohio becomes a crucial firewall and the president has a path to victory if he loses ohio through nevada, colorado, virginia, a few other states. there are more ways to win if you're president obama and if you're thinking whose seat do you want to be sitting in even now after this -- the polling after the debate. i still think it's president obama. but, again, what we saw is that it's not a fixed terrain. things can change. they did change after -- >> things can change even after events where people say things never change. >> exactly. >> round two of our nation's four-round season of debates is really now just minutes away. this is msnbc's live coverage of the vice presidential debate. we'll be right back. i'm bara ck o
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bama, and i approve this message. "i'm not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. that's not my plan." mitchell: "the nonpartisan tax policy center concluded that mitt romney's tax plan would cost $4.8 trillion over 10 years." vo: why won't romney level with us about his tax plan, which gives the wealthy huge new tax breaks? because according to experts, he'd have to raise taxes on the middle class - or increase the deficit to pay for it.
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if we can't trust him here... how could we ever trust him here? if we want to improve our schools... ...what should we invest in? maybe new buildings? what about updated equipment? they can help, but recent research shows... ...nothing transforms schools like investing in advanced teacher education. let's build a strong foundation. let's invest in our teachers so they can inspire our students. let's solve this.
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in june of last year, bloomberg news polled americans on their views of various republican political figures across the country. they found that the single most unpopular republican in america at that time, last summer, was former alaska governor sarah palin. the second most unpopular
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republican was former house speaker newt gingrich. and rounding out the top three, the republican with the third worst net favorability rating in the entire country, was a back bench congressman from wisconsin named paul ryan. paul ryan at that point had never run for national office like sarah palin had. he had never held a leadership position like speaker gingrich had. and, yet, there he was, number three. usually when it comes to vice presidential picks you have to worry a little bit about name recognition and in this case even though paul ryan is just a back bench member of the house, he did not have a name recognition problem for people who pay attention to politics. he was very famous as a politician before he was picked for vp. and he was unpopular. why was he unpopular? because of the one thing he was known for before being tapped as the republican nominee. other than his amazing workout routine. besides that the one thing for which paul ryan was famous other than p90x is his budget. he's been introducing paul ryan budget since 2008. which most famously included his plan to privatize and thereby
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essentially end medicare. earlier this year the "washington post" polled specifically on paul ryan's plan for medicare. they found not only did a majority of americans overall oppose paul ryan's medicare plan, but a majority of republicans opposed it as well. this is sort of lost down the memory hole, but paul ryan's budgets were not just unpopular with americans broadly speaking, they were unpopular with republicans. when mr. ryan's budget came out last year the republican speaker of the house john boehner responded by saying "paul ryan is the ranking member on our budget committee who has done an awful lot of work in putting together his roadmap but it's his plan." in 2010 the republicans' house campaign committee sent out this urgent alert to republican candidates across the country. "msnbc is trying to convince a republican candidate to go on tv tonight and support the paul ryan roadmap. therefore, supporting social security privatization. please do not accept this invitation. it will not end well." mitt romney has a reputation
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from his time in business as being a cautious guy. but picking paul ryan? that was not a cautious pick. before he was chosen for vp congressman ryan sat for a series of interviews with our own ezra klein starting in early 2010. ezra wrote today what he learned about paul ryan in those mini personal debates is among other things that he is well versed on the issues and that he is refreshingly willing to step off message. at least sometimes and to a point. ezra, thanks for joining us this. good it have you in on this. >> thank you for having. >> we you write vice president biden would be wrong to underestimate paul ryan's intelligence. when paul ryan calls himself a numbers guy, you're essentially saying that's for real, that's not just a branding thing. >> oh, yeah, that is real. paul ryan knows the numbers and actually he has something beyond that. what is rare in washington is not a politician who knows their own numbers, a lot of politicians who know their talking points. what paul ryan actually knows which makes him a very good policy debater is he knows your numbers. he knows the arguments that are going to be made againstis
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policies. he has read up on them. he's tried to find counterarguments. now, his numbers don't always add up. he doesn't have great answers to numbers but he isn't ever caught off guard. i've talked to them a lot, i debated his policy with h fihim from a lot of different directions. i don't remember anything he was shocked by or had no response for. sometimes not persuasive, but you're not going to come at him from some direction and turns out he's uninformed on his policies which often happens to politicians in washington. when they don't add up he's made a decision to not have them add up to achieve an objective like a balanced budget later on, it's not like he somehow got it wrong, not usually. >> in writing about this today you had advice for paul ryan. seemed to be you were advising him to not be afraid to let his wonk out. don't be afraid that he shouldn't be afraid to talk numbers and specifics. you said essentially he has suffered politically when he's tried to avoid his true wonky self. why do you think that could work
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even in a big broad brushed setting like this debate tonight? >> well, maybe i just want something to talk about later. but broadly speaking there's been reporting that paul ryan is trying to make sure he's not a guy who comes out and argues cbo baselines, doesn't get too wonky, doesn't get lost in the weeds. paul ryan went from being a back bench politician to being a vice presidential candidate in about two years on the strength of the fact he's good and persuasive at arguing about numbers. that he's good and persuasive making a policy debate that the very least republicans find convincing or policy argument republicans find convincing against president obama. since he got picked by mitt romney to be the vice president, though, they've kind of muzzled that. they haven't wanted to get too close to ryan's budget and he's been, i think, a lot less effective. if you remember his convention speech, there were very, very high hopes for it. it was a surprisingly light and unspecific speech and led to a rapid backlash. there were a lot of falsehoods in it, a lot of what he argued was misleading. he's good at what he is good at.
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he's not necessarily great at being a guy who tries to feel your pain, not necessarily great about being folksy. ryan isn't a superman who can do all things. he's simply a very skilled debater at one particular kind of thing. i think if he's in the debate tonight trying to remember not to be the guy he actually is, that trying to put out a false version of himself is going to be such an effort over the course of the night it's not going to prove to be an effective strategy in the long run. >> ezra klein, we'll check in with you on matters wonk-wise and otherwise. a reminder, msnbc will carry every minute of the debate uninterrupted and be here to recap the event until 1:00 a.m. eastern tonight. from the spinroom, from chris' location in kentucky and with our team here in new york. this is msnbc's live coverage of the vice presidential debate. stay with us. endless shrimp is our most popular promotion
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we are just minutes away from the one and only vice presidential debate of the 2012 campaign. you see there miss jill biden, the wife of vice president joe biden. she's there in the hall tonight. to see her husband. that was jana ryan, the wife of congressman ryan. family's there to watch tonight's proceedings. here's how tonight's going to work logistically. the debate is going to be 90 minutes long. it will go from 9:00 to 10:30 eastern. the 90 minutes is divided into 9 segments that will each be about ten minutes long. at the start of each one the moderator will ask an opening question then each candidate will get two minutes to respond and whatever time is left after that in the segment can be used by the moderator to steer
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further discussion of the question. now, there's no specific issue area limitation for tonight's debate. we expect to hear questions on foreign policy and domestic policy. there was no foreign policy in the last debate. the presidential debate. the moderator of tonight's debate is martha raddatz, the senior foreign affairs correspondent at abc news. miss raddatz is not a controversial choice. she is widely respected in her field. and throughout journalism. she is an unorthodox choice, given who moderators tend to be these days. miss raddatz has never before moderated a debate at this level. she does not host her own television show. her career is not really built around politics at all. she is a reporter and her experience most recently and expertise is in foreign policy. she held a senior foreign affairs correspondent job at abc since 2008 and before that covered the white house and state department for abc and before that was pentagon correspondent for national public radio. they will not be standing at
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podiums like president obama and mitt romney were last week. they will be seated at a desk. a coin toss has determined mr. biden will get the first question and that means mr. ryan will get the last word tonight. but here's one weird one tonight. one of the ground rules negotiated for tonight's debate is that martha raddatz is apparently not supposed to call paul ryan congressman ryan. the romney/ryan campaign negotiated for him to be called mr., not congressman ryan, at least by the moderator. his opponent, vice president biden, can presumably call paul ryan anything he wants and he probably will. i will say, steve, we were just talking about this new tweet that joe biden just sent out. do you have that -- >> i do. biden tweets just ahead of the debate, @joebiden, barack and i are in this because we will never stop fighting for you. you'll see that tonight, joe. the keyword there is "fighting." >> you were saying the keyword there is barack, it drives you nuts it's not the president. >> it's a personal thing.
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i went to the university of delaware. i have a soft spot for joe biden. but, no, he's the president of the united states. his first name is mr., his last name is president. mr. president. the president and i. >> he should call him president, but i think the keyword is "fight." and i must say, and i said it that night, i think the president was not on his "a" game, but i do not think what the big thing that night was him losing. the big thing was the lying of mitt romney. when you're in a sports event and you win and they find out you're on steroids, they disqualify you. his steroids was lies. if he'd been on another half hour, they'd have had to rush paramedics on there. he would have od'd on lies. and if joe biden can keep the steroid, test the elements, joe, tonight, make sure there's no lies steroids in ryan and you'll turn this thing around. >> well, this is interesting you bring that up, because paul ryan has a habit of commandeering the
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debate. he's done that in the past. it's paramount for joe biden tonight to make sure he gets his -- he keeps it on the level playing field and goes right after him and never lets anything hold back as far as the issues are concerned that are being misstated. >> let me let chris matthews jump in on this. chris, did you want to get here? >> look, i think it's important that the vice president make clear that this administration has a record to be proud of. reduce the unemployment rate down into the high 7s, where it was the double digits. actually pulling us back from a real financial and fiscal and economic cliff we were on back then. he never talks about that. saving the american auto industry which was going down the drain, taking 40 million people out of the emergency room and giving them health care, giving women equal pay for equal work. all kinds of things they have to take credit for tonight. martha raddatz is not going to bring it up and paul ryan is not going to bring it up. one person has to bring up these accomplishments. one person has to nail paul ryan to ideological extremism. it all has to be joe biden's job tonight in 90 minutes. he has a lot of work to do tonight. i hope he stays focused. i hope he fights.
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>> let me just talk about the strategic goals of the ryan side, though, here. right? we're all talking about joe biden needs the win, joe biden needs this and the democrats certainly feel that. paul ryan has to show up tonight, too, and it seems to me like his escape hatch for being held accountable for his own record has always been, hey, listen, mitt romney is the top of the ticket, i'm not the guy. it's all mitt romney. if there's any distance between us i'm only going to answer from mitt romney's position, not my own. how do you do that when you're auditioning for the guy who's there to step in something god forbid happens to the president? >> i think one of the things you do is, ezra's advice, notwithstanding, i think mitt romney was very effective and clearly coached to talk about people. to talk about individuals. right? when ryan was added to the ticket and medicare became the issue that was being litigated on the national stage, we saw huge erosion in republicans' numbers among seniors, okay? so ryan's job here is to convince seniors that are watching that he is not coming for your medicare, even though he manifestly is coming for your
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medicare and the way he does that, i think, is to stay out of the weeds of the policy and talk in a human way about the -- >> do you think that's right, guys? >> i think the elections are about the top of the ticket. i think the vice president makes a profound mistake to try to make this debate about paul ryan as opposed to trying to make it about mitt romney. much more effective to make it about mitt romney. i think republicans over the course of the summer went after joe biden, tried to turn him into a buffoon, made fun of him, lowered expectations about joe biden. they may rule today they did that over the summer. here's a formidable politician, a formidable debater and knows what he has to do tonight. >> the problem with connecting himself, ryan to romney, which romney? the romney in the primaries that was far right or the new romney that was moderate and telling tall tales? and if he goes with the new romney, he then has to denounce everything he's stood for as paul ryan, which biden can then drill down on and say, so you're
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now saying that you're with this new romney and you denounce your own position on this, that or the other? that could be fatal. >> you're right. that's the stretch. away from the old romney to new romney is a stretch away from paul ryan's own record. >> i'm intrigued tonight by the moderator. she's a reporter. >> yeah. >> follow-up questions, will be interest to see if her instincts take over when something comes across she might know might not be exactly correct. >> this is msnbc's coverage of the 2012 vice presidential debate sent to get under way from centre college in danville, kentucky, in a couple minutes. i'm rachel maddow at our msnbc home base in new york city. and chris matthews is at the debate site. chris, before we head into the main event tonight, do you have any last thoughts in terms of the stakes here? >> yeah, i think that biden should do what obama didn't do last week. just do it that way. everything different. everything different. it will work. >> chris, what should paul ryan do, if you were advising paul ryan on having his best night
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tonight, what would his best night look like? >> he has to make a decision i can't make for him, does he want to win the vice presidency this time or the presidency later on? be loyal to his political base or loyal to this ticket? it's not possible to do both. he's not that good yet. >> chris matthews put a fine point on it there in terms of whether or not it's for this election or the next. that stretch that paul ryan is being asked to do, is that something that you decide whether or not you're going to do it based on what you think your future is, or is that something you decide based on winning the night? >> well, i think it's -- in both these cases i think you probably convinced you're that those two interests align perfectly and we went back on my show on "up with chris hayes" and found an argument that paul ryan was making for keynesian fiscal stimulus in the bush years that showed this guy can be an absolute loyal soldier. every argument he was making for a bush fiscal stimulus, countercyclical spending, borrow money now and spend it


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